When rainy days come and the kids are getting restless they start digging through that closet in the house where all the random, left over, odd and forgotten things live, looking for something to do. Inevitably, they stumble across some board game and ask with a voice of expectation and longing, “Dad, wanna play a board game?” Now, I don’t mind my kids playing board games. But, for some reason, I do not like playing board games. In fact, I hate playing board games. I’m the guy who tried to hide all the board games way in the back of the bottomless closet hoping they would never be found. So, today, when my son asked to play a game and my wife suggested Yahtzee I decided it was time to try and figure out why I have such disdain for boxes filled with colorful plastic, dice, and cardboard. Here’s what I learned.
To a child, liners and do-overs are cause for great concern. When things seem unfair, whether that’s because of something their brother has done, or a “new” rule that they didn’t know about, or a wrinkle in the table cloth, they feel that their world is coming to an end. They feel strongly about who wins and who loses because, to a kid, that is the best way to measure someone’s worth. Winners are good and losers and bad. Why would anyone want to be a loser? To a child, a simple board game is not about fun and relaxation. To a child, a board game is a declaration to the world that they are valuable and important. They are winners. No wonder there is wailing and gnashing of teeth from whichever son happens to be the loser this time. For a moment in time they know that they are bad because they lost a game.
Over the years I had forgotten this. I had forgotten how to play. I didn’t forget the rules of a game. I forgot how to be child-like. I forgot what it is like to look at the world through the eyes of a child. I forgot how fun it is to shake the dice for a full minute before rolling because I’m convinced that will help me get the four 6’s I need for a Yahtzee on my first turn. I forgot how boring it is to wait for everyone else to take their turn because its always more fun to play than it is to watch someone else play. I forgot that teasing is fun to do, especially when its my younger brother who can’t think up an equally stinging response. I forgot that any reason is a good reasons for do-overs if it will help me win the game. I forgot that my self-worth hangs in the balance every time I spin that spinner.
Parents, give your kids a great gift this Christmas. Remember what it is like to be a kid. Remember what it felt like to be awake all night on Christmas Eve because you can’t wait to open your presents. Remember what its like to find that present you really really really wanted waiting for you. Remember how dumb it is to get socks and underwear instead of Legos. Look at Christmas through your children’s eyes. Let them be excited and rambunctious. Let them eat all their candy in one sitting. Let them be irresponsible. And be a little irresponsible with them. You might just find that you like it.